Amidst concerns over the distribution of money from the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to fund construction projects, the city of Columbia, Missouri has recently received a $1.7 million grant from the government organization to buy three new electric buses.
The Low or No Emission grant program facilitated by the FTA is funding the grant. This program requires that the city matches an amount of $336,200, bringing the project’s total cost to $2.05 million. The city of Columbia is planning to spend $432,500 in hiring the Center for Transportation and the Environment to assist in obtaining the buses, readying them for deployment, and collecting data to measure energy savings, cost savings, and reductions in greenhouse gas emissions.
According to Amanda Capua, a marketing specialist for the Public Works Department, the maintenance costs for the electric buses will be lower than those of diesel buses. The city hopes to receive the new buses at the beginning of the new year. They also have plans to sell some of their older buses at auction next summer.
As part of a proposed budget for the 2019 fiscal year, the city plans to reduce the scope of its fixed-route bus system and number of buses. By the time the changes take full effect next June, there will be just six buses running at a time. The eliminated bus routes will be in areas where few people ride the buses.
Although this change means that routes can focus more on the core of the city, it may leave more rural residents out of luck. In the United States, over 14 million rural residents depend on motorcoaches as the only available mode of public intercity transportation. When bus routes for these residents are eliminated, they have more trouble finding transportation to any locations.
The fight for improved local transit has proved to be a tough one for many towns. Transportation for America is a group that promotes efforts to aid in this struggle. According to them, the U.S. Department of Transportation is currently sitting on almost $1.8 billion that is meant for projects that are ready for final federal approval. Transportation for America is most concerned that the FTA is not distributing this money to help local transit authorities pay for high-cost construction projects.
Despite the city of Columbia seeing its grant money for the electric buses, the widespread delays at the FTA have negatively affected projects in states across the country, from California and Nevada in the west to Florida and New York in the east.
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